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Many big-name free agents still available for Orioles

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Many big-name free agents still available for Orioles

There wasn’t the expected Christmas rush by players and teams to sign free agents.

While the Orioles did officially sign South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim to a two-year, $7 million contract just before the holiday break began, an unprecedented number of big name free agents don’t yet have a baseball home for 2016 and beyond.

That’s a huge upset.

Two weeks ago, it seemed that most of the top free agents were gone, and those who weren’t would be in short order.

That didn’t happen.

RELATED Orioles formally announce Hyun-soo Kim signing

As we prepare of 2016, not only do Wei-Yin Chen and Chris Davis not have employers for the upcoming season, but many others don’t, either.

Pedro Alvarez, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, Dexter Fowler, Alex Gordon, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, and Justin Upton are among the prominent hitters without a job.

Yovani Gallardo, Scott Kazmir and Ian Kennedy are top name pitchers looking for work, too.

Some of these have gotten offers, good ones, too. Davis had the reported seven-year, $150 one from the Orioles. The Orioles have also shown interest in Alvarez, Gordon and Upton.

Span will conduct a workout for interested teams next month.

They’ve also been serious about Gallardo and Kazmir, too.

Some of those who haven’t signed were given qualifying offers, and it may be a drag on the market for Desmond, Fowler, Kendrick and Kennedy.

A record 20 players were given qualifying offers, and for the first time, three players took the $15.8 million bait. They could return to what’s considered a relatively weak free agent market a year from now.

So could some of the others, but teams may not want to sign players to one-year deals when the cost is a draft pick.

While nearly two months of free agency are behind us, the Orioles still don’t report to Sarasota, Fla. for spring training until Feb. 18, more than six weeks from now.

Some of the big money teams have spent big money—Boston (David Price), Chicago Cubs (Jason Heyward) Detroit (Jordan Zimmermann), San Francisco (Johnny Cueto), a few big spenders: the Angels, Dodgers, Nationals, Rangers and Yankees haven’t splurged, yet, but still may do so.

Each year, there’s always one team that unexpectedly jumps in on a big name, and this year it was Arizona, which lavished its riches on Zack Greinke.

While I was off for a week, a reader wondered about the Orioles and Cespedes.

When Cespedes defected from Cuba, the Orioles showed interest, but were outbid by Oakland.

Cespedes, who turned 30 during the postseason, is seeking a six-year contract. That has probably scared teams away.

His stats have been excellent, especially in the last two months of the 2015 season with the New York Mets.

Cespedes gave the Mets the offensive spark they needed, hitting 17 homers and driving in 44 runs in 57 games. He even got some MVP votes.

He’s certainly an exciting player, but there are some cautionary signs.

Cespedes was traded three times in a year. Oakland traded him to Boston, and they moved him to Detroit, which sent him to the Mets.

Excellent players aren’t usually traded that often.

He plays left field, and the Orioles signed Kim, who’s unproven at the major league level to play there. Cespedes has never played right field.

In 16 games in Baltimore, Cespedes has a .261 average with three home runs and 11 RBIs.

If he wants a one-year platform deal, perhaps the Orioles could sign him because he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer. He’ll probably have to settle for less than a six-year deal, but he should get a nice offer shortly after the New year begins.

As for Davis, we’ll continue to wait.

CATCHING UP: There were several moves over the past week:

-Left-handed pitcher Edgar Olmos, who was claimed on waivers earlier this month from Seattle, was lost on waivers to the Chicago Cubs.

-Tim Berry, who spent one night in the Orioles bullpen in June 2014, but didn’t pitch, was claimed on waivers by Miami.

-Infielder Rey Navarro, designated for assignment when Darren O’Day was re-signed, was claimed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels.

The Orioles currently have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

-The Orioles re-signed pitcher Bobby Bundy to a minor league contract and also brought back outfielder Xavier Avery, signing him to a minor league contract. Terry Doyle, who was 16-2 with a 2.16 ERA with Bowie and Norfolk has also been signed to a minor league contract.

Minor league catcher Zach Kapstein was acquired from Boston for cash considerations. Kapstein is the nephew of Jeremy Kapstein, who recently joined the Orioles front office after a long stint with the Red Sox.

-Former Orioles Robert Andino and Troy Patton were signed to minor league contracts by the Marlins.

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Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

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Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado traded to Los Angeles Dodgers

"It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all."

"What we've got here is failure to communicate."

"I'm gonna make him an offer he can't refuse."

I can't decide which quote best applies today. No, it didn't take a "Godfather" offer to pry Manny Machado away from the Orioles. Everyone and their mother knew this day was coming. Machado, he of the .315 batting average, 24 home runs and 65 RBIs, was too big a fish to swim in a last-place pond on the final year of his contract.

Still, the front office in Baltimore knew they had to get this one right, so they held out as long as you could. Depending on who you ask, you might hear that they waited this long to allow Machado to represent the O's in the 2018 MLB All-Star Game as their lone player. I'm sure that was a nice bonus, but the truth is that waiting this long allowed them to net the greatest possible return.

With every twist and turn in the story, new leaders in the sweepstakes emerged and more and more (and better) prospects were added to team's offers. The Yankees wanted to create the most fearsome lineup since the '27 Murderer's Row. The Brewers wanted to show they were aggressive, much like their acquisition of CC Sabathia exactly a decade ago. The Phillies needed to replace the struggling J.P. Crawford at short. The Braves wanted to legitimize their division title chances. The Indians wanted to form the greatest infield in recent memory. The Cubs aren't afraid to turn a strength into a super strength.

Philadelphia was the favorite, until they weren't.

In the end, it was the Dodgers, looking to replace their own injured star shortstop, who made the offer which couldn't be refused.

Yusniel Diaz, Dean Kremer, Rylan Bannon Zach Pop and Breyvic Valera are headed to Baltimore in exchange for Machado and no additional cash, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. 

The Dodgers were one of the best matches with the O's in terms of prospects. Los Angeles is adept at identifying and developing talent, meaning their farm system has a wealth of talent to draw from. Their fourth-best prospect would be number one or two on many team's lists, so the Orioles were able to extract more value without the Dodgers feeling like they were giving up too much for a rental.

Many fans who think the O's would have to basically give Machado away want to remind you that he is just that; a rental. This brought his value down, though it's arguable how much. Machado isn't your average three-month player. He is a generational defender at third base and a passable defender at shortstop, all while providing a middle of the order bat. If we were ranking players on pure talent level alone, Machado would likely be in the top three in all of baseball, and at age 26 he's only now entering his prime. This is a quality of "rental" rarely, if ever, seen in baseball history.

The Dodgers didn't make this move for the next three months (though it can't be overstated how important it's become to win your division ever since the advent of the Wild Card Game and they are locked in a tight battle atop the NL West). They made this move for October.

The National League has many quality teams, but with no super teams in the ilk of the Red Sox or Astros, a move like this can serve to separate them from the pack. Los Angeles is now probably, at worst, tied with the Cubs as the prohibitive favorites to return to the Fall Classic.

For better or worse, this trade will likely come to define the next decade of Orioles baseball. They needed to nail the prospects they got back, and if nothing else, they should be commended for handling this professionally over the last few weeks. This is a quality package, representing a much-needed infusion of talent into their barren farm system.

It doesn't excuse the previous three years, in which they bungled the situation so badly they somehow managed to go 1,000 days without even talking to their most accomplished player in a generation about a potential contract extension. It's been a laughable, unacceptable, truly embarrassing failure to communicate between a decision maker and his best player.

The one silver lining to the Orioles finding themselves on a historic pace to have one of the worst seasons in Major League Baseball history is that the decision to trade Machado and officially kick off the long rebuilding process was an easy one. In previous seasons, during which the front office could have received much greater value in return for one of their stars, the team has inexplicably been unable to evaluate their own postseason chances and chosen to be buyers when they should have been sellers. 

69 losses at the All-Star break is a clear message that the roster needs a reboot, and it allowed the team to not hesitate in jettisoning their most talented player in decades. The fact that the team has been bad since Opening Day has given fans plenty of time to resign themselves to this move, and hopefully they can focus on the excitement of adding a fun, talented young core, instead of the sorrow of losing a beloved figure on your favorite team. 

In the coming years, as the team fights for the top spot in the draft and finds themselves looking up at the hated Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East, hopefully they can look back on some of Manny's greatest hits in Baltimore and appreciate what they had in the superstar from Miami.

After all, it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

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Manny Machado trade rumors are dominating headlines at All-Star Game

Manny Machado could very well be playing in his final game in an Orioles uniform Tuesday night when he takes the field for the 89th Midsummer Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. 

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Dodgers are now in the driver's seat as a favorite to land the All-Star shortstop. 

Machado, 26, has gone back and forth on what he does and does not know as front office deals develop and speculation continues to grow. One thing he has made clear is that the rumors have not detracted from his enjoyment of being an All-Star.

Machado is signed through the end of the season, but the Orioles intend to deal him before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

For the latest news and conversation surrounding Machado's status and the Orioles, follow along on Twitter

RELATED LINKS: 

2018 MLB All-Star Guide 

Bryce Harper reflects on his baseball career 

Best and worst ASG uniforms